Man works his way to success

Published 10:01 pm Monday, May 1, 2017

A Suffolk resident turned his life around when faced with dire medical problems and became a friendly face at the gym in the process.

Tyrone Paterson is 56 years old and a member of the Suffolk Family YMCA on Godwin Boulevard. He’s been a regular at the gym since June 2016, when he adopted a healthier diet and an intense workout regimen to fight a diagnosis of pre-diabetes.

Paterson retired from the Navy in 1999 after 20 years of service before moving to Suffolk in 2005. He said his lifestyle since 2013 is what led to his personal health problems.

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“I was sitting in the chair withering away to nothing, stuffing my face and watching TV,” he said.

He said his weight swelled to upwards of 323 pounds. His A1C — a measure of average blood sugar over a three-month period — was 6.8 in May 2016, and he was diagnosed pre-diabetic. His doctor at the time gave him an ultimatum.

“He said one of two things were going to happen: either you’re going to end up a full-blown diabetic, or you’re going to end up dead,” Paterson said. “That’s when everything changed.”

Paterson described looking at himself in the mirror after his diagnosis and yelling at himself to do something about it.

“I slapped both sides of my face as hard as I could,” he said. “I left a handprint. I cussed myself out.”

He wanted to change himself for his wife, Debbie Young, his stepsons, Brandon and Kevin Young, and his grandchildren Colton, Jaden and Willow. He began by dropping his weight to 305 pounds with the help of strict dieting.

“Ninety percent of weight loss begins at the fork,” he said. “You’ve got to think about what you’re eating before you eat it.”

He then joined the Diabetes Prevention Program at the Suffolk Family YMCA in June 2016. The program is supported by Obici Healthcare Foundation for adults with pre-diabetes.

His initial goal weight for the program was 283 pounds, which he reached in October. YMCA staff member William O’Neill has trained with Paterson regularly since last fall and witnessed him make exceptional progress.

“I’m extremely proud of him,” O’Neill said. “He just has to keep up the work. It’s hard work, but good work.”

Paterson is at the gym six days a week for two to three hours of weightlifting and cardio, with Saturdays reserved for cardio only. He typically burns 1,400 to 1,500 calories per workout.

According to senior membership director Robbie Laughton, Paterson is at the gym twice more per week than most YMCA members.

“The personal interest he took in his workout was phenomenal,” Laughton said. “He really understood that he had to make a change in his life or he wasn’t going to be around much longer.”

Member coordinator Kelly Hardison recalled Paterson’s initial hesitation at the start of the program. She said she helped push him, witnessed improvements to both his body and demeanor, and saw him become part of a family at the gym.

“It was amazing to see him change emotionally and physically, and actually want to be part of something and not walk away,” she said.

Paterson’s weight has dropped to 267 pounds. His A1C in April had improved to 5.5, and his doctor at the Portsmouth Naval Hospital removed him from his diabetes medication.

“She told me I had cured my diabetes,” Paterson said. “That’s the thing I feel most proud about.”

He continues treating his fellow YMCA members like family and keeps up his workout regimen. He called himself a “work in progress.”

“I made too many steps forward to start making steps backward,” he said. “I’m going to keep on doing it.”

He said he wants to fit in his old uniform and be an example to others of what hard work can accomplish.

“I’d like to get back into my Navy uniform again,” he said. “When that happens, I’m going to come up here and show them that this is what you can do with hard work.”